On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This afternoon I obtained a letter from the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold), the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science, inviting me to donate more than £200 to attend a dining room function on the Terrace. That document carries the House of Commons logo. It comes from an hon. Member, but it invites me to send my cheque for £200 to a Conservative association. That is a grievous misuse of the House and an attack on the rights of hon. Members. I would ask for the matter to be investigated and for you, Mr. Speaker, to report back to the House.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to refer to the use of stationery and House of Commons envelopes in a different case. A letter was sent out to general managers of district health authorities in England and Wales by the shadow Secretary of State for Health on House of Commons notepaper. Paragraph 5 of the leaflet issued by the Serjeant at Arms on the use of the House of Commons emblem, stationery and post-paid envelopes says:
Members who wish to send out circulars may purchase original House stationery, or, at their own expense, may photocopy or by other means reproduce that stationery.
It then goes on to describe what a circular is——
Order. We all know that. Every hon. Member has that leaflet. In view of the pressure of time, I should say that the same rule applies to every right hon. and hon. Member. It is not in order to use House of Commons stationery for party political purposes. Complaints should be made to the Services Committee, not to me.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will know that when private Bills are brought before the House they sometimes have to go back for re-examination. At 7 o'clock today we are due to discuss the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill. That Bill started its progress two years ago when there was a balance of payments surplus. It was tiny, but nevertheless it was a surplus. During the Bill's passage we have acquired a £20 billion trade deficit.
Order. It is not the function of points of order to raise matters of a party political nature across the Chamber. They must be matters of order on which I can rule. The hon. Gentleman well knows the rules in that respect.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You say that you have referred the matter raised in the earlier point of order to the Services Committee. Does that mean that the Committee will report back to you so that you in turn can report to the House? This is a matter not just for the Services Committee but for the House, and it is you, Mr. Speaker, to whom we look to protect the interests of the House.
Order. I am not taking any more points of order which are not points of order for me. We cannot have party political arguments across the House on any day, and especially on a day when we have great pressure.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on a matter which is vital to the running of the House. Is it in order for Front-Bench spokesmen, particularly the Opposition spokesman on health and social security, to send out in House of Commons post-paid envelopes, to every health authority in the land——
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I raise a matter concerning the prayer against the National Health Service statutory instrument. The Order Paper states:
The Instrument has not yet been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.
The Government organise the business of the week. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments met yesterday and that item was not on the agenda. Under Standing Order No. 124, a duty is imposed by the House on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments to consider a statutory instrument
with a view to determining whether the special attention of the House should be drawn to it
on a number of grounds which are listed in the Standing Order.
There does not seem to be much point in having a Joint Committee set up by the House to consider statutory instruments if the Government insist on putting on the Order Paper an item that the Joint Committee has not considered. We cannot possibly report the matter to the House and engage in deliberations. If we want any information, the Standing Order requires us to give the Government the opportunity to present evidence to the Joint Committee. So we must take at least a week over the matter. Therefore, the Joint Committee's work is being deliberately frustrated by the Government not saying that, until the Joint Committee has reported, it will not be possible to debate the matter. It is quite outrageous that the Joint Committee, established by the House should be ignored in this way and specifically deprived of the opportunity of presenting a report on the statutory instrument.
The House appreciates what the hon. Gentleman does for the House as Chairman of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments. But today we are not to debate an affirmative order; we are to debate an Opposition prayer and there is a rubric on the Order Paper to the effect that the instrument has not yet been considered by the Joint Committee. The prayer is in order.